The Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus, is not a rose at all but rather a species of mallow ('Hibiscus' is Greek for mallow). This, lovely, old-fashioned, deciduous shrub was a favorite of our grandparents and is therefore often found in older gardens and around historic homes. A native of east Asia, the Rose of Sharon became very popular here because of its large, beautifully soft blooms and relatively trouble free culture. In fact, it is so trouble free that it is often found naturalized in semi-wooded areas close to its original plantings!
Rose of Sharon is a heat loving plant which generally grows as an erect shrub 8 to 10 feet tall. Glossy green foliage is the backdrop for 6 inch wide, Victorianesque flowers draped throughout the branches in soft, pastel colors. This shrub is reasonably tolerant of most sites as long as they are not extremely dry or wet. For the best performance, Rose of Sharon prefers moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Since Rose of Sharon blooms on new wood, a heavy pruning in winter will increase flowering the following spring.
The multitude of Rose of Sharon cultivars, with flower colors ranging from white, pink and red to lavender and blue, make it easy to find one that pleases. At the NCSU Arboretum (now the JC Raulston Arboretum), Hibiscus syriacus 'Diana' is very popular. A relatively recent introduction from the National Arboretum, 'Diana' is more compact than many Rose of Sharon cultivars with dark green foliage and large, pure white blooms which remain open at night.
Rose of Sharon blooms abundantly throughout most of the summer, making it a valuable addition to our gardens and parks. A Rose of Sharon hedge makes a wonderful screen for a porch since it remains floriferous through most of the porch season!
Rose of Sharon is perfect for bringing gracious color to the summer landscape. The ample, sultry flowers framed by soft green foliage are the essence of an old-fashioned summer spent in the porch swings of a gentler era. Plant Rose of Sharon by your own porch to recapture one of the simple pleasures of gardens from an earlier time.